GJ hunter harvests trophy buck using special license
Jeff Draper has spent 36 years hunting mule deer in western Colorado, and in December he got the hunt of a lifetime.
Draper, co-owner of Glass Pros Inc. in Grand Junction, won one of the two raffles for a special 2013 Colorado mule deer license and wound up harvesting a mule deer buck that preliminarily was scored at 226 points, a true trophy according to the Boone & Crockett Club mule deer records.
“I’ve always loved hunting mule deer,” said Draper, who drew his license in March 2013 at a Safari Club International annual banquet in Colorado Springs. “I’ve hunted them since I was a little kid. I’m 50 years old now and can’t remember when we started because back then we could hunt at 14.”
Most hunting licenses are allocated through a computer drawing each spring, but a small number of special licenses, referred to in some states as “governors tags,” are available only through either a raffle or auction hosted by wildlife conservation groups.
Owners of the tags are allowed to hunt from the opening day of the first season (in this case it was deer archery season in August) through Dec. 31, but Draper, an avid bowhunter, opted to use his regular deer archery tag and waited until later in the year for his governors tag hunt.
That extended season is one reason hunters want a governors tag and will pay dearly for them.
Regulations control the price of raffle tickets ($25 each, five for $100), but only demand limits the auction prices.
“I had about $200 invested this year,” said Draper, saying he usually buys raffle tickets from Safari Club International and the Colorado Mule Deer Association.
He said last year’s SCI deer license auction drew $125,000 for the one license.
“I’ve bought tickets for lots of years, and I’ve always looked at it as a donation to SCI,” Draper said with a laugh. “I even buy tickets at the Mule Deer Association banquet here in August.
“This time, I just got lucky.”
Draper said he spends many hours scouting, during the summer for his general hunting and during the archery season.
“I normally do mostly archery hunting, but I decided that this buck wouldn’t present an opportunity with a bow,” Draper said. “Once the archery season was over, I went really hard on this hunt.
“From the first of September to almost the end of December, I hunted for roughly 50 days.”
Even though Draper knew he had a special buck, he waited, knowing there’s always the chance a larger buck might show up.
He said he savored every minute.
“I knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I wanted to enjoy it,” he said. “And you never know, you might find something bigger.”
With about two weeks remaining in 2013, Draper decided the time was right.
He had spotted the big buck a few weeks earlier and had kept an eye on it as the year drew to a close.
“A friend and I had been watching the buck, so I pretty much knew where he was,” said Draper, who wisely declined to say exactly where that buck was, although many sharp-eyed hunters will be looking closely at the photos elsewhere on this page. “When I actually went to kill it, it was a matter of an hour-and-a-half, and it was done.”
It’s unlikely that “green score” of 226 points will stand up to the required drying period before the final scoring, but that’s the least of Draper’s concerns.
“This is a big deal to me because mule deer are my passion,” said Draper, who said he killed a state record deer still in velvet antlers in 2004. “I’ve killed some other really big deer with my bow. This year I shot it with a rifle.
“I was being picky, and I didn’t want to fail.”